Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#50 - 23 Feb 2003

An email newsletter with news and discussion focusing on corporate social responsibility globally, looking at the companies in the news and the emerging issues. Linked to the website at http://www.businessrespect.net and produced every two weeks.

This web page provides news stories and articles from the newsletters. Newsletters also include links to features on the internet, Mallen's blog, and other resources.

In this issue, we consider the difficulties for businesses of coming to terms with the human rights agenda.

Welcome

We have started now to get very welcome emails from people across the world drawing attention to news stories relating to corporate social responsibility from their locality. We don't always use the suggestions that come through, but we do always follow them up and review whether they would be suitable and we are always grateful for the tip-offs! Please do feel free to forward items, and we will always try to give credit in the editorial column when such items appear as news.

Alternatively, however, we will almost never carry pieces that are unverified allegations of corporate or individual misdoing. It simply isn't in our power to subject such claims to the kind of scrutiny and objective analysis that would be required - although we always watch with interest when such instances break into the mainstream of attention.

The vote on the website as to the CSR report-reading habits of visitors has continued to gather responses. The question asks simply: How many social and environmental reports by companies did you read in detail last year?

The current responses come out as:

Less than five 152 (65.24%)
Between five and twenty 55 (23.61%)
More than twenty 26 (11.16%)

233 people have voted in total. We're leaving this one up for just another week or two before replacing it, so if you want to add your own response, please feel free. We do wonder who the 26 people who answered 'more than twenty' are, and what leads them to this broad corporate scrutiny. Are they assessing the behaviour and quality of companies? Or are they scrutinising the format and features of reporting - say, as a benchmarking exercise for their own report writing? If you were one of those 26 people, we would be fascinated to hear from you.

News

Switzerland: Cement industry agrees to drastic CO2 cuts

The Swiss cement industry (Cemsuisse) has agreed to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by nearly 45 percent from levels in 1990 by 2010. The commitment underlines the action the sector has already taken in replacing fossil fuels with alternatives.

US: CEO forum announces voluntary CO2 reduction measures

The Business Roundtable, an association of American chief executive officers, has launched a new initiative to promote voluntary action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Eu Parliament narrowly affirms CSR should be voluntary

The European Parliament has agreed a motion that promotes the uptake of corporate social responsibility by European businesses - but says that this must remain a voluntary movement.

UK: Dixons refutes criticisms on 'worthless warranties'

The electrical retailer Dixons Group has hit back at what it describes as 'a campaign of mis-information' from the Consumers Association about the company's extended warranties.

Lafarge admits to German cement market cartel

The chief executive of french cement company Lafarge, Bertrand Collomb, has admitted that the company participated in what were described as 'unacceptable activities' in Germany's cement market.

Exxon Mobil CEO supports mandatory CO2 emissions reporting

Lee Raymond, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, has said that the company supports mandatory emissions reporting as an essential precondition to polices designed to reduce the impact of global warming.

Japan: Chemical firms investigated on pricing

Mitsubishi Rayon, Kureha Chemical Industry and Kaneka are being investigated by authorities from Europe and North America for alleged monopoly pricing over chemical 'modifier' agents.

Bill Ford sidesteps 'ethical distraction' with charity donation

Bill Ford, chairman and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co., is to donate around $4m to charity when he sells Goldman Sachs shares from its initial public offering.

Canada: La Senza targeted on workers' human rights

La Senza, the Canadian retailer, is being targeted by the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) over the approach of one of its key subcontractors in Thailand allegedly involving the serious violation of workers' rights.

Unocal human rights case to be reheard

Unocal Corp has been given another chance to oppose a lawsuit proceeding against the company alleging human rights abuses in Myanmar.

Deloitte & Touche targeted following insider leak

Deloitte & Touche employees have been targeted for an email barrage following an insider leak of personnel details to animal rights extremists conducting an ongoing campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences.

McDonald's takes the heat on obesity

McDonald's is facing a second lawsuit on its alleged responsibility for causing obesity - a development that has the entire fast food industry watching with anxiety for a future of tobacco-style class actions.

UK: Littlewoods and Argos hit by Hasbro's 'Responsible Approach'

Littlewoods and Argos, two of the major UK retailers, have been hit with record fines by the Office of Fair Trading after toymaker Hasbro blew the whistle on a cartel in which it was itself involved.

Bayer executives accused of knowledge of serious Baycol problems

Some senior executives at Bayer have been accused of having known for some time that the company's anti-cholesterol drug Baycol had serious problems before withdrawing it from sale.

Business leaders warned of risks of ignoring climate change

Investors failing to take account of climate change in their asset allocations and equity valuations face serious investment repercussions over time, according to a new survey of the chairmen of the 500 largest global companies by market capitalisation.

Article

Companies struggle with the difficulties of human rights

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 23 Feb 2003

Companies genuinely, and with the best will in the world, struggle with how they can incorporate human rights principles into their practice around the world. They struggle particularly with how they can measure their performance in this area.

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